This is a very interesting and important analysis of the situation from “The National Interest” – the World is divided into groups of countries and peoples, whose value orientations are completely different. So, this is an irreconcilable contradiction. On the other hand, it perfectly demonstrates the stupidity of the idea called “universal values” that the West imposed on Russia at the end of the 20th century. At that time, it was an important element in the dismantling of the Soviet system. Now the whole situation is absolutely clear – there are no “universal values”, but the Western values to impose on the World by all means.
A value-based conflict tends to be uncompromising, as values cannot be divided, Joergen Oerstroem Moeller, a former state-secretary for the Royal Danish Foreign ministry writes at ‘The National Interest’ magazine.
We do not know when and how the war in Ukraine will end. But all wars do end eventually.
The conflicts underlying this current war, however, will not end. They are global, permanent, and will cut across any kind of war in the first decades of the twenty-first century.
The first of these is the determination of the West to defend its domination of the world — economically, militarily, and culturally.
The second, more difficult to define, is a clash between two opposing value systems. Sometimes this is popularly depicted as “democracy versus autocracy,” but this perspective is imprecise and superficial. This is more about abandoning or keeping family values, as we have known them for several thousands of years.
Perhaps it would be more accurate to say the second conflict is about whether one accepts or rejects the aggressive strand of liberalism — what some call “wokeism” — in their national culture.
These two conflicts clash for historical reasons in Ukraine, which serves as the canary in the coal mine, drawing our attention to what will define the global power game for a very long time.
Since the beginning of the era of industrialization, the West has ruled the world. Over the last thirty-seven years, however, this has changed. Consider the following raw economic figures.
In 1985, the United States accounted for 34 percent of global gross domestic product (GDP). The EU for 21.4 percent. Together, this adds up to 55.4 percent, meaning that, only slightly less than forty years ago, the West produced more than half of global GDP. As of last year (2022), however, the United States accounts for 21.9 percent while the EU account for 16.9 percent. Together, this adds up to 38.8 percent — a significant decline of 16.6 percent.
Likewise, there have been notable developments in the realm of military and security. In 1985, the Soviet Union maintained a military arsenal not fully comparable with the United States but formidable enough to lock the world into a two-power military system. Since the Soviet Union’s collapse, the United States has been by far the strongest military power, but the rising capabilities of China and middle-sized countries around the globe erode U.S. supremacy.
Culturally, the shift may be even more important. In the years after 1991, the United States was a cultural hyperpower. Entertainment, communications, social networks, and leisure activities governing the everyday life of people all over the world went through a U.S. hopper represented by colossal companies. Facebook, Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon are only the most recent of these. They wielded enormous influence over the thinking and preferences of billions of people.
This position is now being challenged — not exclusively, but primarily, by Chinese companies that have thrown down the gauntlet. The United States, however, is attempting to take action to fend off this challenge.
The West is aware of its own relative decline, and consequently, is attempting to shore its position.
The United States has imposed sanctions on selling advanced semiconductors to China in an attempt to stymie advances in high-tech development, especially with regard to artificial intelligence. Likewise, the door is closing for selected Chinese investments in Western countries. Barriers blocking foreign direct investment coming from Chinese companies, especially with regard to technology, are quickly rising up.
Internationally, the West insists on priority to resources, control over global communication, and defining the global ‘ruled-based’ system — as was the case for the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the World Trade Organization, plus a large number of UN special agencies instrumental in setting global standards and norms. In this system, the rest of the World could claim influence corresponding to their growing stature.
Over recent decades, the West has moved towards a fundamental change in its value system. Established values — primarily, but not entirely, anchored in Christianity — are being softened or changed to adopt a different value-based system. This is seen by the constant advocacy of the LGBT issue, ushering in a family structure that is historically unheard of and, in some cases, was unlawful a hundred or even fifty years ago.
The rest of the World is not following suit. The majority of countries outside the Western sphere adhere to the “old” values. This, however, is increasingly leading to contention between the West and the rest.
The problem is not that we have two value systems, but that the West takes the view that this “new” value system should also be adopted by the rest of the World — a kind of cultural “end of history” position. The ‘ultimate value system’ has been found, by the West. The rest of the World disagrees.
They acknowledge the right of the West to shape its own value system at home, but not to be at the receiving end of what in some cases is labeled “cultural imperialism” — being lectured about and told to adopt specific values.
Bearing this in mind, the war in Ukraine should not surprising. In reality, it is not a traditional war, nor about the security of nations, nor a war between two societal systems as would have been the case before 1991 with the United States versus the Soviet Union. It is a war triggered off by different value systems confronting each other.
This value-based conflict will be with us for a very long time. In the fullness of time, it may break up nation-states and generate some kind of global conflict among peoples instead of among states. There is a precedent to this: the Thirty Years War, fought in Europe between 1618 and 1648 between Catholics and Protestants.
The nation-state itself was a product of the Thirty Years War.
It is entirely possible that the very concept itself will be asphyxiated by another War of Values. How can nation-states continue to be the defining framework of international politics and unite people who are deeply divided over fundamental values?
The omens are not good.
A value-based conflict tends to be uncompromising, as values cannot be divided.
Compromises cannot be found. Fanaticism gains ground. “We” are right and “they” are wrong.